DEFENCE NOTES

SAM BROWNE'S CAVALRY
(12th Frontier Force)

This chapter is being re-produced with thanks from JOHN GAYLOR'S fine book 'SONS OF JOHN COMPANY'. JOHN GAYLOR, first came to India with the Royal West African Frontier Force and served in India and in Burma with the 82nd (West African) Division. He subsequently served with the London Scottish and the Special Air Service. He is the Secretary of The Military Historical Society and lives in retirement in Kent. This book is available from JOHN GAYLOR directly at 19.99 (UK) plus postage. He can be contacted at 30 Edgeborough Way, Bromley, Kent BRI 2UA Tel 44 (181) 3251391

The regiment which became, in 1922, the 12th Cavalry (Frontier Force) was formed from two regiments of the old Punjab Irregular Force, the 2nd and the 5th which, in 1903, had become the 22nd Cavalry (Frontier Force) and the 25th Cavalry (Frontier Force).

Of the five regiments of Punjab Cavalry, the 1st and the 3rd went to form the 11th Prince Albert Victor's Own Cavalry (Frontier Force) as already narrated; the 4th Regiment, raised in 1849, as were the others, had only a brief existence and was disbanded in 1882.

It was Lieut. Samuel J. Browne of the 36th Bengal Native Infantry who received orders to raise a regiment of Punjab cavalry in Lahore to be designated the 2nd Punjab Irregular Cavalry. The 5th was raised at Mooltan by Captain Robert Fitzpatrick of the 12th Bombay Native Infantry.

Both regiments were promptly engaged in frontier operations.

Both 2nd and 5th went to the seat of action when the Great Mutiny began in 1857 and Captain Dighton Probyn was awarded the Victoria Cross. Browne, now a major, charged and captured a rebel gun, accompanied by only a single sowar. He lost is left arm but earned a Victoria Cross. The decoration had only recently been instituted and there is no doubt that it was awarded rather more liberally than in later years but it is certain that there was no lack of opportunities for young officers with fire in their belly and the need to secure advancement.

The mutiny operations completed, both regiments returned to the Frontier and, in 1861, they were regularised and became the 2nd and the 5th Punjab Cavalry. It was at about this time that the famous Sam Browne belt was to make its appearance, an item of dress to be adopted widely and surely one of the few accoutrements still to be in use 130 years later with little or no change. The colonel, having lost his left arm had difficulty in carrying his sword comfortably, whether mounted or dismounted, leaving his one hand free. Its design was also intended to carry a leather pistol holster whereby the weapon could be safely carried without the risk of accidental discharge - as the pistols of the day were inclined to do. The original belt is now on display in the India Room at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

The Second Afghan War in 1878-80 found the 2nd in the Kandahar Field Force, distinguishing themselves in the cavalry action at Ahmad Khel in April 1880.

In 1903, the regional titles were abolished and the 2nd Punjab Cavalry became the 22nd Cavalry (Frontier Force), changed a year later to the 22nd Sam Browne's Cavalry (Frontier Force). Sadly, General Sir Sam Browne VC, GCB, KCSI had died in 1901.

The 5th, on its return to the Frontier, displayed several times the advantages of shock-action by a small, disciplined body of cavalry over a large but less cohesive force. In March 1860, 150 men under an Indian officer attacked a 3,000 strong lashkar of Mahsud Waziris at Tank, killing 300 and dispersing the others. In January 1867, an Indian officer with 27 sowars charged a body of 1,000 tribesmen, killed 150 and captured most of the rest.

In Afghanistan, the 5th were present at the capture of Charasiah and Roberts ordered that they and HM's 9th Lancers should share the honour of escorting him into Kabul. At the storming of the Asmai Heights in December 1879, near Kabul, Captain William Vousden made repeated charges with a small body of men of the 5th, passing through the ranks of an overwhelming force again and again until the enemy fled. Vousden received a Victoria Cross and his ten surviving men the Indian Order of Merit.

The changes of 1903 saw the 5th become the 25the Cavalry (Frontier Force). It was 1916 before the 22nd went overseas to Mesopotamia but they remained abroad for four years, returning to India only in 1920.

The 25th went to German East Africa in 1915 and joined in the pursuit of von Lettow Vorbeck to the Mozambique border before being withdrawn in the face of the depredations of the tsetse fly on cavalry operations. They were back at home in time to gain an honour for the Third Afghan War.

The amalgamation of the 22nd and 25th saw the disappearance of Sam Browne's name: the first tile was to be, briefly, the 22/25th Cavalry but this was changed in 1922 to the 12th Cavalry (Frontier Force). However, five years later, they became Sam Browne's Cavalry (12th Frontier Force) but this was shortlived. The new badge showed a mounted figure within a circle carrying the title 'Sam Browne's Cavalry XII FF' with a crown above. The new regiment was destined not to fire a shot in anger.

In line with a new training policy, Sam Browne's dropped out of the order-of-battle in 1937 when they were made the permanent training regiment of the 2nd Indian Cavalry Group stationed at Ferozepore.

BATTLE HONOURS

Delhi 1857, Lucknow, Charasiah, Kabul 1879, Ahmad Khal, Afghanistan 1878-80, Kut-al-Amara 1917, Baghdad, Mesopotamia 1916-18, North West Frontier, India 1914-15, East Africa 1917, Afghanistan 1919.

BOOKS

Very little of substance but the 'Journal of the late General Sir Sam Browne VC, GCB, KCSI 1849-98' was published posthumously on the initiative of his daughter: (Pub. William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh, 1937)

CHANGES OF TITLE

Pre-1903 2nd Punjab Cavalry 5th Punjab Cavalry
1903        22nd Cavalry (Frontier Force) 25th Cavalry (Frontier Force)
1904        22nd Sam Browne's Cavalry 25th Cavalry (Frontier Force)
                (Frontier Force) 
1921 22/25th Cavalry
1927 Sam Browne's Cavalry (12th Frontier Force)

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